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GUEST BLOG: Noise Levels at Events


Guest Blog - Doodson Broking Group

Bob Bowman, Director at FLX Consulting Ltd. and previously a lecturer in Health & Safety has written a guest blog for us on Noise at Live Events.

The issue of exposure to high sound levels, with reference to amplified and other music, has been debated at length over many years. As far back as 1994, J.S. Epstein wrote the book 'Adolescents and Their Music : If It's Too Loud, You're Too Old', a phrase taken up by many.  Noise-induced hearing loss has also been well researched and noted in classical musicians. It seems as though there isn't, as some may claim, good noise and bad noise even though the music industry is almost unique in that high sound levels are the product rather than the by-product.

Currently in the UK, legislation (the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005) applies a European Directive to workplaces including the 'the music and entertainment sectors'. In the USA, a different standard (OSHR 29 CFR 1910.95) is in place. These documents contain various legal personal daily exposure standards ranging from 80-90 dB(A) with an assortment of measures to be taken by employers. For non-technical readers, it's worth mentioning that an increase of 3 dB(A) may roughly double the damage to a person's ears although it doesn't sound twice as loud.

Much music exceeds these figures by quite a margin. My own measurements in many large indoor (over 10,000 capacity) and smaller indoor (1000-3000 capacity) for loud amplified music (which may be recorded or live), are frequently in the range 95-100 dB(A) and often higher and may be over long periods. These figures have been replicated by many others. HSE research has shown similar figures in parts of orchestras. As a rough idea, if you need to shout to make yourself heard, the sound level may be over 90 dB(A) and could be much higher

As for audience exposure, for which venues owe a duty of care, high sound levels are common, up to 105 dB(A) and beyond in my experience.

So what does a manager have as guidance?

In the UK, the current official guide HSG195 (The Purple Guide HSE) is outdated, it was written in 1995 and is being revised by the Events Industry Forum. Publication has been delayed several times and the current first chapters are expected in summer 2013. In the USA, the Event Safety Alliance have recently (Feb 2013) published a 272 page draft 'Event Safety Guide' which contains advice on noise control and also a 'myth busting' section. The UK has a specific website Sound Advice containing much practical information and guidance to the regulations is free.

I'd suggest that anyone concerned about the legal aspects of exposure to noise takes competent advice if they are unsure about the information above.

About Bob

Bob Bowman
BA, BSc(Hons), MSc, MEd, SpDipEM, CMCIEH, CMIOSH, Cert Ed, Dip Mus

Bob has been Director of FLX Consulting Ltd since 2010, and previously lead tutor at a large FE College for NEBOSH Certificate and Diploma, CIEH and IOSH courses in Food Safety, HACCP, PTLLS, Health and Safety and Environmental Management.

Noise measurement and related survey work has been part of his work for over 20 years and has included major entertainment venues, a Premier League football club, warehousing, NHS, woodworking machines, car washes and many food and manufacturing premises. As a Visiting Lecturer, MSc Occupational Health, Birmingham University during 2011/3, he has delivered modules in Noise, Accidents at Work and topics related to PUWER, COSHH and mechanical handling.

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